Prince fans were expecting to be able to listen to some previously unreleased music from the late pop icon on the anniversary of his death after a longtime collaborator announced that RMA Records on April 21 would release Deliverance, a six-song EP Prince recorded between 2006 and 2008. “I believe Deliverance is a timely release with everything going on in the world today, and in light of the one-year anniversary of his passing,” George Ian Boxill, who co-produced the songs, said in a press release. “I hope when people hear Prince singing these songs it will bring comfort to many."
But Deliverance was not released on April 21, and now we may have an idea why. According to a report by TMZ, Prince’s relatives are planning a reality show about how their lives have changed since his death, and not only do they want to use the unreleased music in the show, they want the show to be the first time anyone hears it. So they blocked Boxill from releasing the songs, disappointing Prince fans who have been waiting to hear some of the icon’s legendary trove of unreleased material.
In accordance with what Boxill thought Prince would have wanted, Deliverance was going to be released totally independently through RMA, a small label based in Vancouver, Washington. Most of the sales would have gone back into Prince’s estate. “From the get-go it had always been the majority of both publishing and master recording revenue going to the estate,” David Staley, co-founder of RMA, told Rolling Stone. “One of Ian's largest motivations was wanting this to be a blessing to the family once the bank that represents the estate eventually decided who the heirs were. His hopes were that it really would be a financial blessing to them, alleviating the potential tax burden and just providing a blessing to help preserve Prince's legacy.”
But after the release was announced, Prince’s estate, as Paisley Park Enterprises, sued Boxill and was granted a retraining order that would prevent the release. The lawsuit also demanded that Boxill return "any and all masters, copies and reproductions” to the estate.
"During his unparalleled career, Prince worked with many sound engineers, including Mr. Boxill," a statement from the estate read. "Like the other engineers that had the opportunity to work with Prince, Mr. Boxill signed an agreement, under which he agreed (1) all recordings that he worked on with Prince would remain Prince’s sole and exclusive property; (2) he would not use any recordings or property in any way whatsoever; and (3) he would return any such recordings or property to Prince immediately upon request. Mr. Boxill did not comply with his agreement. Instead, Mr. Boxill maintained copies of certain tracks, waited until after Prince’s tragic death, and is now attempting to release tracks without the authorization of the Estate and in violation of the agreement and applicable law."
Although TMZ reports, via "sources close to Prince's heirs," that his relatives intend to use the Deliverance songs in the reality show, it's likely they would have blocked the release, regardless. The fallout from Prince's unexpected death has been messy, as he left no will and a large family. In November, the estate sued Jay Z's Roc Nation over Tidal streaming rights. (As of February, Prince's music has been available to stream on all major services, including Spotify and Apple Music.)
According to TMZ, the relatives' reality show is still in the early stages of development. Though a production company has been secured, there is no timetable or a deal in place to air the potential series. Whether it actually happens remains to be seen. It's certainly a bizarre idea, and while the estate has sanctimoniously accused Boxill of trying to profit off of Prince's death, it's hard to argue the relatives aren't guilty of the same.
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